Posted On: 09/21/18 10:30 AM

I was present at Bartlett’s open gym workout on Thursday. I had a chance to meet head coach Dion Real for the first time in person.

Most importantly, I had a chance to see his team in person. Now, official tryouts will not take place until next month but most of the players who were working out will be on the team once the season starts in November.

During the workout, coach Real emphasized the importance of not turning the basketball over and making layups. Last season, the Panthers lost to Whitehaven in a sub-state game by two points. Shooting guard Matthew Murrell didn’t play because of an injury. Bartlett was also without three players of its own.

The Panthers missed 12 layups and had costly turnovers in the two-point loss. I’m not sure if Bartlett realized how close it was last season to playing for the state title but Real made it clear how close his team was.

The Panthers return everyone from last season, plus added small forward Antavion “Dude” Collum, who played for Tennessee Prep Academy last season. With Collum in the fold, Bartlett has the experience plus the talent to compete for a state championship this upcoming season.

Here are my four observations from the Panthers’ open gym workout:

Bartlett has a battle going on at point guard.

Real describes junior point guard Sylvester Thompson, 5-foot-9, as the team’s best defensive player. The Panthers also have senior point guard Jefferson Walker, 5-10, who’s reliable on both ends of the court. But Bartlett has a rising sophomore point guard in Will Farris. He has speed, solid ball handles, and drives aggressively to the rim.

Real mentioned Farris will back up Thompson but was, sort of, hesitant in saying so. The Panthers have depth in their backcourt, which is a good problem to have.

Takori Rooks is healthy.

Senior forward Takori Rooks wasn’t with the team over the summer as he was dealing with a groin injury. Rooks is expected to be back practicing with the team next week.

Jake Manley could be the team’s best jump shooter.

Senior shooting guard Jake Manley made some big shots from deep during a five-on-five scrimmage at the end of the team’s workout. Manley is a great spot-up shooter and can made shots off the dribble.

Antavion Collum gives Bartlett an extra boost.

Senior wing Jalen Cincore, 6-5, will not have to put the team on his back this upcoming season. Cincore will have Antavion Collum to help out with the scoring and rebounding. Collum, 6-5, can play positions 1-3, possibly power forward, depending on the matchups.

Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis was in attendance to watch Collum workout. Collum mentioned the Rebels are in the lead for his services. He mentioned Ole Miss has been the only school that’s been recruiting him the hardest. Florida, Missouri, and Georgetown will be in town next week to watch Collum workout.

Before Collum heads off to college, he wants to help his new team win a state championship and be in the running for Mr. Basketball.